16 Feb The Script Lab Q&A: Isaiah Washington
It’s been quite a successful time for Isaiah Washington past a particular 2007 controversy that almost derailed his time in Hollywood. Several years later, he’s back better than ever. For this year’s Pan African Film Festival, Washington’s production company CoalHouse Productions is showing off two films: Blue Caprice and BlackBird. Much has been said about Blue Caprice since it made it’s premiere last year at Sundance. A narrative inspired by the true events of the 2002 DC Sniper Attacks orchestrated by John Muhammad and Lee Malvo, Washington has earned critical praise for his role as the twisted father figure.
Then there’s BlackBird. Focused on the trials of an adolescence coming to terms with his homosexuality in the rural south, the film also marks the return of Academy Award winner Mo’Nique (Precious) to the silver screen after a long hiatus. Washington also co-stars. The Houston native hasn’t abandoned television however. Next March has Washington starring in CW Sci-fi drama The 100.
Between the many screenings shown at PAFF, Washington talks with The Script Lab about the reaction toward his performance in Blue Caprice, BlackBird’s message and how he prepared for life behind the scenes as a producer.
TSL: In an interview with NPR late last year, you mentioned your goal with Blue Caprice wasn’t necessarily to make a typical reenactment story. What were your initial original thoughts on the 2002 attacks before coming on to the film as an actor and producer?
Washington: Well I didn’t have a script when I agreed to do the film. I had already had two conversations with the director Alexandre Moors and he asked me the question of where was I during the horrific events. I could remember it like yesterday, I knew exactly where I was and I remember exactly what I had on that day; some sweats, t-shirt and some sneakers. I went down to my mailbox area at my condominium in West Hollywood to pick up my mail and my neighbors mail because they were traveling abroad.
It was their Newsweek magazine in which I saw in a rubber-band folded in half. That’s where I saw this picture of a smiling man with an afro, looking like someone’s father from the seventies or something. I wasn’t sure about what was going on. As I took the rubber-band off and opened up theNewsweek which belonged to my neighbor, unfortunately they never got that one, I was just floored. I purposely turned off of the story story; not because I didn’t care but when the news broke out, I was under the impressions that it was some crazy white man like Tedd Bundy and all the other serial killers. I just wasn’t interested in following that horrible, horrible time. I turned my back to it. By the time it was all over and I saw these two African Americans on the cover, I was floored. I was angry, embarrassed and couldn’t wrap my head around it. They seemed like a beautiful father and son but when you read more about the fact that weren’t along with everything else, I was in shock. I’ll never forget it and I couldn’t forget it.
Around nine years later, I’m confronted with portraying a character inspired by this human being. It was at that point, everything that I’ve gone through I was prepared to remove my biases, concerns and fears as an artist. Although we’re making a film inspired by the DC sniper, we’re really making a film in a metaphorical way about what happens when father and son are together but the father is toxic. That leader or guardian is toxic and corrupt. So that’s what we did.